2024.04.17 Sky Lagoon, Travel & Iceland Notes

Our last day in Iceland. Boo!  But first, a visit to the spa. Yay!  There are numerous geothermal spas in Iceland, and around Reykjavik, and it is pretty standard for visitors to visit a spa upon arrival and leaving the airport, or before departure, on the way to the airport.  We chose to treat ourselves as we leave Iceland. 

We originally booked with Blue Lagoon, which is very near the airport and I would consider the most popular and well-known spa in Iceland.  But yesterday we received notice that Blue Lagoon was closing due to “an unfavorable air quality forecast” as they “are learning to adjust to an active volcano about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away from Blue Lagoon”.  Okay!

Right away, we booked a reservation for our second choice, Sky Lagoon, at 9:00am.  I would imagine they sold out quickly as the other jilted Blue Lagoon customers adjusted their plans.

Stephanie and the Sky Lagoon
Sky Lagoon Entrance with Ocean in Background

We were the 4th couple in line and were quickly checked in.  We were directed to the swanky men’s and women’s locker rooms where we changed into our swimsuits and pre-rinsed before meeting in the spa.

An older man approached me in the locker room to ask how to operate the lockers.  I looked at the locker for a minute and told him I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out together.  I shortly realized that the wristband assigned to us will lock and unlock the locker. High tech lockers.

The locker room color scheme was very dark, and the lighting was subdued.  It all worked together to create a luxurious vibe.

Sky Lagoon Locker Room
Sky Lagoon Showers

We met up again in the “lagoon”.  The water was steaming and the high walls of volcanic rock kept the steam contained, building the ambience. We made our way through the short corridor until we reached the main pool.  It is really something.  One side of lagoon is an infinity pool that feels like the water drops off right into the ocean.  On the other side is a protected cove with a bar that had a line formed almost from the start.

The main activity at Sky Lagoon is their 7-step healing ritual.  As it turned out, we were experiencing it the moment we got in the lagoon.

Step 1 – The Lagoon.  We hung out for a short while, enjoying the view and taking it all in.  There is something to be said for relaxing in the naturally warm water.

Step 2 – Cold Plunge.  As you climb the steps out of the pool, you are directed to submerge yourself in a small circular pool with very cold water.  We stepped in together and conducted the briefest of plunges, before hustling off to the next step.

Step 3 – Sauna.  The staff directed us to the door of the sauna, and in hushed tones, asked us to keep our voices low.  We stepped in to a completely silent room with maybe 6 other people already seated.  One wall of the sauna was a glass wall looking out over the ocean.  Everything inside the sauna was wood, and the seating was built up like an amphitheater facing the glass wall.  In the center were two containers of hot rocks, and periodically water would squirt onto the rocks to create more steam.  Attached to the walls were a half dozen hourglasses, and I turned one of them over when we sat down, starting a 15 minute timer.  We stayed in for the duration of the timer, and loved every minute of it.


Step 4 – Cold Mist.  To assist with the cooling off phase, we were directed into a large shower-like area where a cold mist could softly cover us.  It was nothing like the cold plunge, but you also didn’t feel like hanging out in the mist all day.

Cold Mist

Step 5 – Body Scrub. The staff next offered us bowls of a scrub that we were encouraged to rub all over our bodies (except our face) in preparation for the next step.  It was the consistency of a paste and was gritty as you wiped it over your skin.

Step 6 – Steam. Once we had our body scrub applied, we were directed to enter the steam room.  We opened the door and walked inside and it was hilariously steamy.  You could not see 3 feet away.  The room was a rectangle with the steam coming from the center of the room.  The seating was around the perimeter.  We sat down in the first available spots, and as some other clients later left, we scooted to the far end so new clients wouldn’t have to step over us.  We soaked it in.  At one point, a lady sat down to our left, and a few moments later another later sat down to our right.  The lady on the left said, “Carolyn?”, and Carolyn replied, “Yeah, I’m here!” and then they connected.  This steam room was the real deal!

Steam Room

Step 7 – Shower. Upon leaving the steam room, we were directed to a shower where we could rinse the scrub from our bodies.  At this point, we were relaxed and had accomplished our cleansing ritual. 

We returned to the pool, got a couple of drinks from the bar, and found a spot where we could sit in the warm water and continue our relaxation.  There was no need to carry a wallet or anything, as the wristband that opens our locker also allows us to charge drinks to our account. 

Steve At The Bar

We sat down next to a couple about our age, from Virginia.  We talked about travel and our kids.  Turns out that one of their sons is interested in being a pilot and is considering Oklahoma State.  I told her that my brother works at the college with the flight program, and the Virginian asked, “Is your brother’s name……Patrick?”  So close!  No, my brother’s name is Scott.  (Later we realized that the Patrick she spoke to was almost certainly the Dad of our daughter Mallory’s sorority little sister & college roommate.)

A little later, Stephanie was approached by a trio of ladies.

Stranger #1 – “Can I ask you a really strange question?”

Stranger #2 – “She’s going to ask anyway!”

Stephanie – “Sure, what is it?”

Stranger # 1 – “Would you take our picture and then text it to me?”

Of course, Stephanie obliged and took an awesome pic of them, and texted it right over.  And in return, they took our photo.  Win-Win.

Cheers to Iceland!

We hung out in the lagoon until maybe Noon, and we had to face facts and move on with our day if we were going to catch our plane.

We didn’t have to drive long to make it to CostCo, where we had gassed up earlier in our trip.  We topped off the tank, and then went next door to Ikea for lunch. 

Lunch at the Reykjavik Ikea

We feasted in the cafeteria upstairs, then came back to the first floor and grabbed some desserts from their bakery.  We wouldn’t eat another real meal for about 16 hours so I will give this lunch some high marks!

On our drive to Keflavik and the return of our rental car, we passed a road sign for Grindavik, with a line through the name.  During our Food Tour earlier in the trip, Noki had told us that the town was quickly evacuated due to the volcano, and it is likely that the town will be permanently closed, and the inhabitants no longer able to return.  Very sad.  The road sign was a harsh reminder.

Grandavik Road Sign

After returning the car, we were taken by shuttle to the airport.  There was literally no line to check our bags at the counter.  We made our way to security. 

It seemed as though the Security Team had a goal of finding at least one thing wrong with every person’s carry-on.  They did not like how Stephanie had her toiletries/liquids stored, and she had to take the bag back and check it.  Security handed me my backpack and said, “Everything in the bag is okay except for this water bottle.  It will be confiscated.”  (I had forgotten to dump the water out first.)

We boarded the plane and found our seats.  We each got a seat on the aisle across from each other.  But good news – I was the only person in my row, so Stephanie came over to share with me, and I got the window seat.

We lived it up on the six hour flight back to the US.  We even ordered some olives and chips/hummus.  Now we are living!  When not snacking, I worked on the travel blog, and Stephanie finished the book she brought on the trip.  We were a productive team.


We landed at 7pm at Newark.  We were routed along with all the other international travelers to Passport Control.  There were hundreds and hundreds of travelers in these lines, but we had a secret weapon.  At Mallory’s suggestion, we had registered for – and received – Global Entry, which is a program that allows for expedited clearance when arriving in the US.  There were zero people in the Global Entry line, and we cruised right through.  After using it just one time, it was clearly worth the money.

We collected our bags and bought 2 train tickets from NJ Transit that would take us to Penn Station in Manhattan.  At Penn Station, we hopped on the subway, and were deposited just a few blocks from our hotel.  Every step along the way since we landed was as smooth and as fast as could be expected, and it still took us 3 hours to get to the hotel.  Just a block from the hotel, we stopped at Five Guys and grabbed dinner, which we ate in our hotel room.

Iceland was a blast, but we are equally excited about what’s next – time with Mallory!

As a postscript, we have a few last observations about Iceland that are consolidated below. 

Radiators and Open Windows

Every hotel room we had used radiators for heat.  This makes sense, as the entire island is apparently heated by geothermal energy.  Every hotel room also had windows that opened, and we used these extensively.  In fact, our last two nights at the Hilton, we had the radiator on its lowest setting, the window opened as wide as it would go, and we still nearly had a heat stroke.

Radiator and Open Window

Electric Kettles

Every hotel room we used had an electric kettle for making coffee and tea.  The rooms had instant coffee, and it got the job done.  Stephanie left Iceland wanting to get an electric kettle.

Cell Reception

Maybe the most shocking aspect of our 6 days in Iceland was the fantastic cell reception.  We had full bars everywhere we went.  And our drive along the South Coast was through some very remote regions.  Didn’t matter – full bars at all times.

Lack of Children Tourists

We did not see any children at our first hotel until the 3rd day when we were checking out.  And throughout the trip, we saw very, very few children tourists.  Likely a combination of the time of year (kids in school) and the fact it is Iceland (no amusement parks here).

Fences on South Coast Drive

During our drive along the south coast, we noticed that nearly all the land is fenced.  But we never saw any animals.  We can only suspect that maybe the cows and sheep will inhabit these fields when it warms up. 

Invisible Infrastructure

Throughout our driving, we noticed a lack of cell towers, power lines and railroads.  Unsure how they provided such spectacular cell reception and move all that geothermal power, but it gets done somehow.  And as an aside, we never saw a train or a railroad while there.  Just too small of a geographic area for it to make sense, I suppose.


Throughout the island, graffiti is common.  It is apparently considered more artistic than hooligan there.  It was visible in the cities and towns, and also out in the middle of nowhere.

Safe for Women

Iceland is a very safe location.  We saw so many single women travelers and small groups of women travelers. 

Icelandic Names

When a baby is born to Icelanders, the child can only be given a name which is on the list of approved names, as deemed by the Icelandic Naming Committee. The list has somewhere around 5,000 total names on it now.  Parents can submit a new name for approval, but the committee is very strict and new names must be Icelandic enough to get approved.

Icelandic Horses

When we took the food tour on our first day in Iceland, our host, Noki, invited us to ask him anything about Iceland and he would not be offended.  But he did add one caveat – do NOT refer to their Icelandic horses as “ponies”.

These horses are special as they have been selectively bred in Iceland for over 1,000 years.  The country works very hard to maintain control over these horses, going so far as to issue each one it’s own equivalent of a Social Security Number.  In fact, Icelandic horses are only allowed to leave the country one time.  If you leave, you do not return.

Besides being smaller than your average horse, the Icelandic horse also has two unique gaits that are not typically seen in any other horse.  These gaits are probably due to a gene mutation.

There are approximately 180,000 Icelandic horses in the world, and 80,000 of them live in Iceland.  We saw dozens and dozens of farms while driving around the country that had pastures full of these horses.

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